New SBJT examines Biblical Spirituality

Communications Staff — March 7, 2007

In the 21st century mainstream culture, spirituality has reached new heights of popularity.

However, much of what passes itself off for spirituality is nothing more than vacuous self-worship which stands in direct conflict with what Scripture demonstrates to be authentic, Christ-centered spirituality, essayists in the latest edition of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (SBJT) seek to demonstrate.

The latest SBJT examines the topic of Biblical Spirituality, and essayists sift through numerous issues raised by contemporary spirituality and set forth a genuine, God-honoring spirituality as taught in Scripture.

Contributors include four Southern Seminary professors—journal editor Stephen J. Wellum, Robert L. Plummer, Shawn D. Wright and Michael A.G. Haykin. Other essayists include noted author and Bible scholar Graeme Goldsworthy, author and minister Peter Adam and Phil Johnson, executive director of John MacArthur’s ministry, Grace to You.

In his editorial, Wellum establishes the problem: most spirituality in the secular culture is miles away from scriptural spirituality.

“Most of today’s discussion regarding ‘spirituality’ is so eclectic and syncretistic that it is imperative that Christians do not confuse contemporary discussions and forms of it with true biblical spirituality,” Wellum writes.

“As the old adage goes, ‘Ideas have consequences,’ and the ideas surrounding current thought on spirituality, if not grounded in a Christian worldview centered in the gospel, will the end, lead to spiritual disaster.”

Plummer seeks to answer whether or not the Bible enjoins the practices of silence and solitude that are popular among some current advocates of the Christian spiritual disciplines.

While silence and solitude can serve as aids to prayer and meditation on the Bible, Plummer concludes that they are not spiritual disciplines per-se. Plummer serves as assistant professor of New Testament interpretation.

“It seems to me that silence and solitude should not be thought of as spiritual disciplines in and of themselves,” Plummer writes.

“They are conditions that aid in the practice of spiritual disciplines such as prayer and biblical meditation. The danger of thinking of silence and solitude as disciplines in themselves could lead to a focus on the absence of noise or absence of other persons to the neglect of the actual biblical purpose for that absence.”

Wright, who serves as assistant professor of church history, provides an illustration of biblical spirituality in an essay on the piety of Reformation era theologian Theodore Beza. One foundational aspect of Beza’s spirituality was his undying trust in the sovereignty of God, Wright asserts.

While cultural circumstances have changed since the days of Beza, spiritual and eternal realities have not, Wright points out. Thus, Beza is a commendable model of the Bible put into practice, he writes.

“(N)othing of real importance has changed,” he writes. “Heaven and hell remain the eternal locations to which every person is going, one an existence of eternal joy, the other a place of eternal torment. Satan is still raging against God, God’s truth, and God’s people.

“The Bible remains God’s inerrant word, a trustworthy guide in every facet of our earthly pilgrimage. Believers still struggle to fight the fight of faith, to live in the world without being part of it, to have our hope fixed on heaven instead of the world around us. The outward trappings may be different, but the eternal realities are constant. Most significantly for us, our God still reigns sovereignly over us, over all our concerns, and over every aspect of the universe.

“Beza, and the Bible, urge and challenge us to put our hope in our Sovereign Father as we seek to honor him with our lives.”

Similarly, Haykin’s essay commends the godliness of English Baptists in the 17th and 18th centuries. Haykin serves as visiting professor of church history and is principal of Toronto Baptist Seminary in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Baptists are the children of Puritanism and the family connection between the two is seen clearly in the godly lives of the 17th and 18th century Baptists, Haykin writes. He introduces readers to key Baptist figures of that era such as John Sutcliff and Benjamin Keach.

“Just as the Puritans were primarily men and women intensely passionate about piety and Christian experience, so spirituality lies at the very core of the English Baptist movement during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries,” he writes.

“For example, Baptists in this era were adamant that keeping in step with the Spirit was the vital matter when it came to the nourishment of the soul of the believer or the sustenance of the inner life of the congregation.”

The journal also includes the SBJT Forum in which scholars such as D.A. Carson, Mark Coppenger, Joel R. Beeke and Pierre Constant consider particular questions on Christian spirituality. A number of book reviews are also included.

To obtain a copy of the SBJT or to subscribe, please contact the journal office at journaloffice@sbts.edu.

Are you ready to become a pastor, counselor, or church leader who is Trusted for Truth?

Apply now for summer or fall studies

Classes begin in June & Aug.